You can’t spend two decades in the animal grooming business without learning a thing or two about the behavior of humankind’s best friends.
For instance, border collies love playing on agility courses, retrievers are high energy and like to play hard, and most small dogs want a comfy place to hang out and a little bit of respect from the bigger dogs.
Cats, of course, are a whole different animal.
“Dogs have become like people’s kids now,” Christie Becker, owner of the new Glacier K9 Resort and Spa, said. “They want somewhere (the dogs) can stay and play and have fun.”
Glacier K9, on U.S. Highway 93 between Kalispell and Whitefish, hopes to operate within this animal-lover niche, where people don’t just want a room full of wire cages to count as boarding, but rather a place they know their dogs will get plenty of playtime, have space to roam, and be given “lots of loves.”
This goal is the result of years of research by Christie and her husband, Jake Becker. Christie worked in Bozeman as a groomer before the couple moved and took over Kalispell’s Critter Corral, a grooming and boarding spa for dogs and cats, in 2001. But they wanted to grow into a larger operation.
Instead of jumping right in, they decided to learn some new tricks first. The Beckers visited boarding and grooming businesses along the dog-wild West Coast, and attended conferences on the latest needs and wants in the industry.
When land north of Kalispell off U.S. Highway 93 came up for sale, the Beckers went for it. They built their new, bright-red facility on 12 acres, and put all the information they gained into motion.
The resulting Glacier K9 is a modern, warm space. The lobby will contain boutique animal items, Christie Becker said, with hip clothes for dogs and pet supplies that people won’t be able to find at big box stores. The business will begin accepting pets for boarding in November with daycare beginning later.
Cats will be boarded in a room just off the lobby, with a glass door and a big window so the felines can lounge and watch the human and canine activity from the safety of their own space. It also has its own ventilation system, Becker said; many of the various rooms at the facility have their own fans and air-exchange systems.
A grooming area, complete with two tubs and a drying room, lies to the south end of the building, nearby the “suites” for the boarded dogs. Each cubicle has an epoxy floor for easier cleaning and general hygiene, and glass doors instead of chain-link fence. Becker said research shows that glass helps the dogs feel more secure, and they can’t injure themselves by chewing or pawing at it out of anxiety.
The suites also have their own TVs, which will be playing the Dog TV channel, which airs dog-friendly programming to keep the pooches calm and happy. Some suites will have heated floors, and some will have window access.
Toward the back of the building, a big, long room will serve as the general indoor play area, where boarded and daycare dogs can mingle and hang out on beds and couches. To access this area, the dogs must pass a temperament test and observation for a week, Becker said. There’s also a room with one-way windows looking into the playroom, so people can observe the dogs without causing mayhem with their presence. A lounge area with raised beds and a big TV will serve for movie nights.
“We wanted to create a place where the dogs want to be,” Becker said. “There’s play, but structured. It’s not a free for all.”
On the end opposite of the lounge is a room with a divider for the small dogs. They could run with the big dogs, Becker said, but usually feel comfortable in a space where they won’t be trampled.
This is part of the cage-free boarding movement, she said, but they also wanted to offer spaces for dogs that aren’t as comfortable around others.
Outside, the Beckers have installed K9Grass instead of the natural kind. This synthetic covering is soft and durable, so the dogs won’t be running through a mud pit or digging holes everywhere. Agility equipment provides a jungle gym of sorts for the dogs, and water features — likely including a splash pad and pool — will be added next summer.
They plan on having breed-specific activities, and potential visits and classes with trainers. But other activities, like chasing beef-flavored bubbles, are for everyone.
Eventually, they’ll expand the artificial grass, but for now, the Beckers plan to grow slowly and sustainably. They hope to create a place for animals to be happy, as well as the humans who bring them there.
“I’ve always wanted to work with animals,” Becker said.
For more information on Glacier K9, visit www.glacierk9.com or call 406-755-3647 (DOGS).
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